Ibuprofen belongs to a class of medicines called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. It can be purchased over-the-counter or in higher strengths with a prescription. Ibuprofen is utilized to alleviate pain caused by a headache, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, dental pain, and muscle aches. Ibuprofen is also an effective fever-reducer that can also help alleviate pains and aches that occur with the flu or common cold. Inflammation in an individual's body occurs upon the production of certain substances that begin inflammatory processes in the affected tissue. Ibuprofen works by using a mechanism to inhibit the production of such pro-inflammatory substances in the body. The effect of ibuprofen helps bring down swelling, decrease pain, and reduce body temperature.
Like other medications, however, ibuprofen does come with some potential side effects. Get familiar with these now.
A small portion of individuals who take ibuprofen may experience abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is the result of the depletion of the three main mechanisms the stomach and intestinal tissues use for protection against stomach acid and other gastric juices. The stomach lining mucus layer is broken down by ibuprofen, and there is a decrease in chemical bicarbonate responsible for neutralizing acids in the stomach and intestines. Abdominal pain manifests when food that has been consumed or digestive components produced by the liver, pancreas, and stomach actually cause cellular damage to the underlying and unprotected tissues of the stomach and intestine. Pain in the abdomen is common with damage to the linings of the stomach and intestines because they contain a large concentration of sensory nerves responsible for transmitting pain. Should ibuprofen cause an ulcer or lesion to form in the lining of the stomach or intestine, the abdominal pain can last for up to several weeks.
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Nausea And Vomiting
Some individuals who take ibuprofen may experience nausea and vomiting due to cellular damage to the digestive tract. When cellular damage is detected in the gastrointestinal tract, the brainstem receives signals with this information from the individual's mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. As a result of this process, the affected individual's solitary tract nucleus, motor vagus nucleus, and the central pattern generator are triggered. Once these structures have been activated, a chain reaction occurs that results in the individual feeling the urge to vomit. The individual's saliva production increases and the movement of food through their digestive tract slows down. Should an ulcer form in the stomach or intestine as a result of ibuprofen use, blood from the lesion can also trigger these mechanisms and cause nausea and vomiting.
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Ibuprofen is known to have a corrosive effect on the mucous membranes of certain organs and tissues, which can manifest as heartburn, a type of pain that occurs in an affected individual's upper digestive tract. In a healthy individual, the process of prostaglandin synthesis and neutralization of stomach acids keep the type of tissue damage that causes heartburn from occurring. Neutralized stomach acids are not pushed back up into the esophagus, and would not cause damage to the lining even if they were regurgitated. The mechanism responsible for halting the production of excess stomach acids in a healthy individual also becomes impaired with the regular long term use of ibuprofen. More stomach acids are produced, and less of those stomach acids are effectively neutralized. Heartburn occurs because these protections are not in place for the upper stomach and esophageal tissues. Damage to the stomach and esophageal lining that causes burning sensations in the chest takes longer to heal with the use of ibuprofen, as efficient blood flow is required for the tissues to repair themselves.
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Itching skin due to ibuprofen can be the result of a couple of different mechanisms, including a true allergy or a pseudo-allergy. A true allergy to ibuprofen is relatively rare but would cause itchy skin, hives on the face, throat swelling, and other dangerous symptoms that require immediate treatment. A pseudo-allergy is more of a hypersensitivity that is not specific to ibuprofen but is typically experienced with the use of multiple different nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories. The affected individual's skin may become itchy and develop minor red patches or a rash that may last for several days. The itchiness that occurs in most individuals who experience this side effect is a direct result of the mechanism of the medication itself and not majorly precipitated by an abnormal response by the immune system processes. Mast cells and basophils are implicated in intolerance or hypersensitivity to this drug that causes itching.
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Diarrhea Or Constipation
Ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been known to sometimes result in diarrhea and constipation. Constipation is reported as a more common side effect to ibuprofen than diarrhea is, although both can occur. Ibuprofen eats away at the mucosal layer that protects the linings of the intestines and stomach. The mucus production in these organs is imperative for the proper lubrication and movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Less mucus means less lubrication, and less muscle movement to propel the food along at a reasonable pace. Food stays in the digestive tract for longer than it typically would, allowing the intestines to absorb more fluid from it before it exits the body. Increased fluid reabsorption in the stool means the stools become dry and hard, causing the individual to feel constipated. Inflammation in the small and large intestinal linings can also cause diarrhea if the ability of the intestine to absorb certain nutrient components from the food has become impaired. Irritation of the intestinal linings can also overstimulate the muscles that help move food along the intestines, causing it to move too quickly and results in diarrhea.
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Decrease In Urine Output
Patients who take ibuprofen could experience a decrease in urine output. This side effect is relatively common, and it might occur in conjunction with a decrease in the concentration of urine as well. These decreases are most likely to develop in female patients over sixty years old, and individuals who take ibuprofen and acetaminophen at the same time are also at an increased risk of decreases in urinary output and concentration. Changes in urinary output are typically reported within the first month of ibuprofen use. Patients who take ibuprofen for a longer period are less likely to report urinary issues. Individuals who have a medical condition known as patent ductus arteriosus have an elevated risk of urinary side effects while on ibuprofen. Since changes in urination could be indicative of an underlying health issue, patients who notice this side effect should report it to their physician right away.
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Taking ibuprofen on a long-term basis could increase a patient's risk for gastrointestinal side effects such as abdominal bloating. Patients might feel as though they have eaten too much, and they could notice an uncomfortable sensation in the stomach often accompanied by heartburn. Patients could notice bloating after as little as three weeks of daily ibuprofen use, and this side effect typically worsens with prolonged use. Ibuprofen is known to cause stomach ulcers, and patients who experience any abdominal bloating or pain should have these symptoms evaluated by their healthcare provider immediately. To evaluate bloating, the doctor will ask the patient questions about how long the bloating has lasted and whether anything makes it better or worse. Next, the doctor will perform an abdominal examination. They will use a stethoscope to listen for bowel sounds, and the abdomen will also be felt to identify any areas of pain or swelling. Doctors may need to perform an ultrasound or imaging studies in certain cases, and they might recommend switching to a different pain reliever. When managing abdominal bloating, it can be helpful to keep a journal that records changes in symptoms and possible triggers.
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Shortness Of Breath
Shortness of breath is a rare side effect of ibuprofen use, and it requires urgent medical attention. Patients could have breathing difficulties as a result of an allergic reaction to the medication, and individuals with asthma who take ibuprofen may experience increased wheezing. Shortness of breath is usually preceded by tightening of the airways, also known as bronchospasm. Patients could notice breathing difficulties at rest and after exertion. Shortness of breath can sometimes be indicative of cardiovascular issues, and it can significantly impact the patient's ability to perform daily tasks. Thus, it is especially important to have this side effect investigated by a healthcare provider. The doctor will begin by listening to the patient's lung sounds with a stethoscope, and lung function tests and imaging studies may be recommended. Treatment with supplemental oxygen could be needed for individuals who are severely short of breath, and some patients could notice an improvement in their symptoms after switching to a new medication. Shortness of breath due to ibuprofen use is most commonly reported in female patients over sixty years old, and individuals who take acetylsalicylic acid and ibuprofen together have a higher risk of breathing difficulties. High blood pressure increases the risk of experiencing shortness of breath with this medicine.
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Occasionally, the abdominal bloating caused by ibuprofen could lead to noticeable swelling of the abdomen. Abdominal swelling is more likely with long-term use of ibuprofen, and individuals who take more than the recommended dose are at an elevated risk of this side effect. In addition, some patients could notice swelling in the fingers, hands, feet, and lower legs. Facial swelling has also been reported. Facial swelling could be an indication of an allergic reaction, and swelling of the limbs is generally due to the water retention caused by this medication. Female patients over sixty years old are at the highest risk of this side effect, and swelling usually begins during the first month of ibuprofen use. Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to observe swelling than patients without this condition, and using ibuprofen in conjunction with zoledronic acid further increases this risk.
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Some individuals who take ibuprofen have reported unusual fatigue and weakness. For example, patients could feel more tired than they usually would after working or doing household chores, and they might find they need to take naps during the day or want to go to bed earlier than they normally would. Fatigue is more likely to occur with high doses of ibuprofen, and taking more than the recommended dose could lead to drowsiness, fainting, and loss of consciousness. Patients experiencing fatigue may wish to keep a journal detailing their activities and symptoms, and it is important to share this information with a physician. Blood tests and a physical examination may be beneficial in determining whether ibuprofen is contributing to a patient's fatigue, and doctors might recommend that the patient lowers their ibuprofen dose to reduce fatigue.